01 June, 2012

Are we selling buggy whips?

I am not in NSW these days, and when I was I wasn't a school librarian, so this post has the caveat that I possibly don't know what the hell I am talking about. Still, when has that ever stopped me having an opinion?

At the moment when I read the emails that fly around the teacher-librarian world, there is a lot of chatter about the current setup in NSW where the government is moving towards letting school principals have the power to hire and fire. I believe it is being tagged "local schools, local decisions". I am listening to a lot of people who are very upset by this because they believe that this power is putting teacher-librarians and school libraries at risk.
So to that end we are seeing letters to the editor and interviews on the tabloid TV programmes.

My question is, is this advocacy the right tack for this situation? I am happily ensconced in the library of a Catholic school and as such there is no requirement for a librarian. In fact for a lot of time there wasn't one, however the previous principal decided that a neglected library was no good at all and the current one has continued to listen to my cries for more space and more money, so in the space of two an a half school years this library has been transformed.

Why do my NSW public school colleagues not feel that 'local decisions' are likely to free up funds to rebuild their libraries? Why is it an instant fear that the result will instead be giving them the boot and ploughing their stupid outdated old books into the ground as landfill and using the free space to buy a metric arseload of ipads?

There are all sorts of stats to be quoted, the decline in teacher librarian numbers in Victoria under the Kennett government. One paper I read mentions that only 8.6% of NT schools have a teacher librarian. But then, given that there are a lot of very small schools in the NT I am not sure this stat means much. Furthermore, given that in my experience in Darwin and Alice there are a lot of schools which would love a teacher librarian but have been unable to get one, this does not demonstrate any unwillingness on the part of principals. Additionally, there are some remote locations which have joint use libraries staffed and supported by the NT Library, so no teacher-librarians but still well resourced libraries. So, if the NT stats in these papers are representative of how useful the other figures are I would suggest that there is a bit of a problem with what the data is claimed to prove.

That leads me to my post title "Are we selling buggy whips". It is a tired old analogy online but I am now wondering why so many principals are just looking for an opening to toss teacher librarians into the dustbin. I have blogged earlier about the continued episodes on the teacher librarian e-list where members are unable to work out how to unsubscribe. If this is in any way indicative of a percentage of teacher-librarians I can imagine that a principal might be more than happy to give em the ol' heave ho and replace them with someone who is aware of which century this is.

My thought would be, that a better use of our time would be to make sure that all those who wear the badge of teacher librarian are capable of garnering the respect of their principals. Once that is the case, I suspect that principals will see the value in their continued employment. But until that is the case, I suspect no amount of lobbying is going to improve the perception that some of us are frantically hanging onto our buggy whips and demanding some sort of government mandated whip quota.

(this post was whipped of in too little time to think it through properly but because I just realised it was June and I am thinking I might try the blog every day of June thing so missing day 1 would be a bad start).

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